Cross-Species Approach To Personality 1163
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Cross-Species Approach To Personality 1163
Study 1: Internal Consistency and Consensus
Participants. Seventy-eight owners (67% women) rated their own
personality and their dog’s (50% female) personality, and returned their
judgments by mail; peer informants rated the personality of owners and
dogs and returned their judgments directly to the experimenter by mail. The
owners reported the age and sex of the dogs.
Personality judgments. Judgments of humans were made using a standard FFM instrument, the Big Five Inventory (BFI; see John & Srivastava,
1999). For the dog judgments, the BFI was adapted slightly. Two experts
reviewed each item on the human instrument to determine whether it was
applicable to canine targets. Most items could be applied to canine behavior after minor editing. Care was taken to retain the original sense of the
items. For example, the item “Is original, comes up with new ideas” was
changed to “Is original, comes up with new ways of doing things.” Only
one item (“Has few artistic interests”) could not be translated to a canine
form, and was therefore omitted from both human and canine BFIs (the
canine version of the BFI is available from the authors).
The judges indicated the degree to which each item was characteristic of
the target (dog or human owner) on a scale ranging from 1 (disagree
strongly) to 5 (agree strongly). There were eight items for Extraversion/
Energy (e.g., “Is full of energy”), nine for Agreeableness/Affection (e.g.,
“Is cooperative”), eight for Neuroticism/Emotional Reactivity (e.g., “Can
be tense”), and nine for Openness/Intelligence (e.g., “Is curious about
many different things”). The variances did not vary across human and dog
targets, with mean standard deviations of .76 and .78, respectively.
Results and Discussion
Internal consistency: Are personality judgments of dogs consistent across items? We computed Cronbach’s coefficient alpha
across the items on each BFI scale, and these values are shown in
Table 1 for both human and dog targets. For humans, the alphas
averaged .82 for the owners’ self-judgments and .85 for the peers’
judgments of the owners; these values are similar to previous
research. How do the values for the dogs compare? The mean
alpha was .83 for the owners’ judgments of their dogs and .82 for
the peers’ judgments of the same dogs—values quite similar to
those for human targets even though the BFI was derived in
research on humans. In short, the personality judgments showed
substantial internal consistencies for both species.
Consensus: Do owner judgments agree with peer judgments?
To assess consensus we computed unit-weighted scale scores for
humans and dogs for each of the four BFI dimensions. To provide
a human comparison standard, Table 1 shows the correlations
between the owners’ self-judgments and how they were judged by
the peer informants. These human consensus correlations were
strong, averaging .55, and quite similar to previous research on
human personality (e.g., Funder, Kolar, & Blackman, 1995; McCrae & Costa, 1987). What about the dogs? Table 1 shows that the
four consensus correlations for canine targets were all significant
and averaged .62. That is, they were substantial in size and at least
as large as those for human targets, suggesting that owners can
judge the personality of their dogs with substantial consensus.
Could these substantial consensus correlations be due to nonbehavioral characteristics of the animals? That is, one possible
artifactual explanation for consensus is that instead of making
judgments on the basis of behavior, informants might have made
judgments on the basis of such nonbehavioral variables as the
dogs’ sex or age. To find out, we estimated consensus using partial
correlations. The partial correlations were essentially unchanged;
averaged across the BFI scales, the partial consensus correlations
controlling for sex and age were .62 and .61, respectively—
virtually the same as the mean zero-order correlation of .62. Thus,
consensus cannot be attributed simply to judges relying on sex or
age stereotypes about dogs.
A second possible explanation for the consensus findings is that
judges did not actually discriminate among the FFM dimensions
but formed only a single impression (such as like–dislike), and
then made their BFI judgments on some inferential basis (e.g.,
Borkenau, 1992). If so, each of the four dimensions should be
highly correlated with the other three. Thus, when controlling for
the discriminant correlations by partialing out the other three BFI
scales, there should be no unique consensus left—the partial consensus correlations should all no longer be significant and approach zero. This was not the case, however, as the partial consensus correlations in Table 1 show. They averaged .56 for dogs,
as compared with .52 for humans. Thus, our consensus findings
cannot be explained by the intercorrelations among the BFI scales,
neither for the humans nor the dogs.
Study 2: Correspondence
Probably the most important evidence for accuracy is whether
personality judgments can predict external criteria. In the case of
personality traits, the definitive test is whether personality judgTable 1
Internal Consistency and Consensus: Personality Judgments of Humans and Dogs
Owner judgments of Peer judgments of Target judged
Human (self) Own dog Human owner Dog Human owner Dog
Extraversion .83 .77 .84 .81 .66* (.61*) .76* (.76*)
Agreeableness .81 .84 .84 .83 .47* (.43*) .55* (.43*)
Neuroticism .80 .89 .86 .86 .45* (.43*) .57* (.51*)
Openness .83 .81 .84 .75 .58* (.60*) .55* (.47*)
M .82 .83 .85 .82 .55* (.52*) .62* (.56*)
Note. Numbers shown in parentheses are partial correlations remaining after all discriminant correlations have
been controlled. BFI Big Five Inventory.
* p .05.
1164 GOSLING, KWAN, AND JOHN
ments predict behaviors. How should such behaviors be assessed?
Funder, Furr, and Colvin (2000) observed that most measures of
social behavior in psychological research have two major limitations: (a) from an ecological point of view, the behaviors examined
are often intrinsically uninteresting (e.g., response latencies to
stimuli), and (b) measures typically focus on an extremely small
number (usually just one) of the many specific behaviors an
individual actually emits. Thus, Funder et al. (2000) recommended
focusing on behavioral assessments that are “psychologically
meaningful and relevant to individuals in behavioral interaction,
but that would also require a minimum of subjective interpretation
on the part of the coders” (p. 454). This midlevel analysis is above
that of narrow molecular units but below the level of broad
cross-situational behavioral trends. Thus, in the context of the
behavior of dogs, rather than attempting to measure the frequency
of head shakes, the velocity of a scamper, or the amplitude of a tail
wag, a midlevel approach would require that observers rate, for
example, whether a dog performed shy behaviors or nervous
behaviors in a specific situation.
The midlevel approach is well-suited to the study of dog behavior because it permits the measurement of situation-specific behaviors that are a priori related to the traits under study while
retaining the breadth that allows multiple traits to be assessed in a
naturalistic setting. We adopted this approach in the present research because we wanted to capture behavior relevant to all four
of the trait domains we had examined in Study 1. Thus, correspondence in this study reflects the degree to which the owners’
personality judgments of their dogs correspond with trait-relevant
dog behaviors rated by independent observers in a field-testing
Taken together, these studies show that personality traits can be
judged in dogs with impressive levels of accuracy. Our twospecies comparative approach made it possible for the first time to
interpret the animal findings in direct comparison with findings
based on human participants. We were able to show that the
consistency, consensus, and correspondence of dog personality
judgments were not only significant but also as substantial in size
as those found for humans.
By taking an integrative approach to issues examined previously
in piecemeal fashion, this research represents a departure from the
past. As such, we suggest that this research can provide a blueprint,
or prototype, for conducting species-comparative studies of perTable 3
Correlations Between Photo Ratings and Field Behavior Ratings
and Correspondence Correlations After Controlling for
and behavior ratings
Extraversion .17 .28*
Agreeableness .20* .33*
Neuroticism .30* .21*
Openness .04 .23*
M .18 .26*
Note. Correspondence correlations are partial correlations between the
owners’ judgments of their dogs and the field-test behavior ratings from
Study 2, controlling for the appearance-based impressions from the photo
judges. BFI Big Five Inventory.
* p .05.
1166 GOSLING, KWAN, AND JOHN
sonality. Specifically, this research examined a comprehensive
array of dog-relevant personality dimensions, thus permitting comparisons across traits, and tests of discriminant validity with partial
correlations. In addition, we included controls for nonbehavioral
variables, such as sex and age, that could have influenced the
judgments. We used multiple indicators to measure each dimension, allowing us to test the internal consistency of the judgments.
Moreover, we evaluated personality judgments according to a
comprehensive set of accuracy criteria. To provide a benchmark
against which the accuracy criteria could be tested, we implemented the cross-species comparative approach, simultaneously
examining two species, including the species (humans) and personality trait model (the FFM) upon which most research on
personality judgment so far has been based. Finally, in an additional study, we controlled for the potentially biasing effects of
breed and appearance-based stereotypes on personality judgments
of individual dogs.
The findings emerging from this research are important because
they suggest a conclusion not widely considered by either humanpersonality or animal-behavior researchers: Differences in personality traits do exist and can be measured in animals. This conclusion also converges with another newly emerging line of research
indicating that behavioral traits in nonhuman animals are heritable
(e.g., Weiss, King, & Enns, 2002). The time has come, we suggest,
to extend Darwin’s argument of cross-species continuity to the
domain of personality. Below we discuss some directions that such
extensions might take.
Limitations and Future Directions
Our findings suggest that the personality judgment approach can
be applied successfully to nonhuman populations. Nonetheless, the
boundary conditions of these effects, obtained here in a sample of
domestic dogs and their owners in an urban dog park, still need to
be established. Future research should examine whether these
findings generalize to other contexts and populations. One extension would be to conduct studies with seeing-eye dogs or bombsniffing dogs whose personalities could be judged by their trainers
or handlers. Other types of criteria could then be used to evaluate
the correspondence criterion of judgmental accuracy, such as performance in standardized working-dog trials or subsequent on-thejob success as a working dog (e.g., Goddard & Beilharz, 1983;
Slabbert & Odendaal, 1999; Svartberg, 2002). Such work is important because it could open the way for obtaining judgments by
trainers and handlers in controlled studies of dog personality.
Even more important from the perspective of the cross-species
comparative approach, this work needs to be extended to other
species. There is some encouraging evidence that the findings for
personality judgments of dogs may indeed generalize to some
other species of mammals, at least on some accuracy criteria. In
terms of correspondence, for example, the pioneering studies of
Stevenson-Hinde (e.g., 1983) found that personality judgments of
rhesus monkeys (e.g., on aggressiveness) corresponded with behavior observed in specific situations. In terms of consensus, a
study of spotted hyenas showed consensus for traits related to four
of the human FFM, such as active, aggressive, fearful, and imaginative (Gosling, 1998).
An additional limitation of the present work was our reliance on
the midlevel assessment of behaviors (Funder et al., 2000), in
which we used behavior ratings rather than detailed codings or
frequency counts of specific acts. Our multidimensional approach
necessitated the use of these midlevel assessments because finegrained recordings of behaviors are extremely time-consuming and
thus would have been prohibitive in a study of more than a few
traits. Nonetheless, future studies should examine other kinds of
correspondence criteria. Work in ethology suggests that naturalistic observation and coding techniques may be used to assess
correspondence in nonhuman animals. For example, in piglets,
behavioral records of vocalizations, nose contacts, and location in
the pen can serve as behavioral markers for a personality dimension akin to human sociability (Forkman, Furuhaug, & Jensen,
1995). Studies of these new species and new criteria should be a
top priority for the next generation of studies.
Implications and Conclusions
Broadly, this first cross-species personality study represents a
necessary and fundamental step toward bridging the gap between
personality and animal research. To illustrate the benefits of a
comparative approach to personality, we briefly consider its potential impact on personality research in genetics and development.
Progress in personality-assessment procedures for nonhumans
opens the way for new interdisciplinary partnerships between
genetics and personality researchers. Although genetic studies on
humans are essential, animal-personality research provides an avenue of research that offers important advantages (Gershenfeld &
Paul, 1998). Compared with humans, many laboratory animals
have brief intergenerational periods and are inexpensive to maintain. More extensive and intrusive manipulations are possible in
studies of animals than would be permitted with humans, so animal
studies could be used to test specific hypotheses derived from
human research. In addition, transgenic methods and new cloning
techniques (e.g., Wakayama, Perry, Zuccotti, Johnson, & Yanagimachi, 1998; Wilmut, Schnieke, McWhir, Kind, & Campbell,
1997) could provide novel opportunities for animal research to
further our understanding of the genetic influences on personality
(Flint et al., 1995). Among the many possibilities, one can foresee
expanded twin studies in which, instead of using pairs of identical
human twins, a large number of genetically identical cloned or
inbred animals are raised in systematically varied environments to
examine the interaction of genetic and environmental influences
on personality. The present findings suggest that personality judgments can play a part in such studies.
The present findings also bode well for animal studies of personality change. Typically, the most useful information on personality change is derived from longitudinal studies. In some respects,
animal studies provide an ideal situation in which to investigate
personality development. Many captive animals are observed almost every day of their lives and biological, environmental, and
social events that are hypothesized to influence personality change
can be recorded, or even manipulated experimentally, to test
hypotheses about environmental influences. For example, crossfostering studies in rhesus monkeys have already shown that
infants’ responses to separation from their foster mothers is best
predicted from their inherited levels of emotional reactivity, rather
than from their foster mother’s level of reactivity or care-taking
style (Suomi, 1999).
CROSS-SPECIES APPROACH TO PERSONALITY 1167
In sum, animal studies provide unique opportunities to elucidate
the dynamic interaction of biological, genetic, and environmental
effects on personality, and to study personality change, links
between personality and health, and even processes in personality
perception. The use of accurate personality judgments by owners,
handlers, and observers would make collecting animal personality
data so much less cumbersome and time-consuming, thus opening
up research opportunities with vast potential. Moreover, the
present evidence for the existence of personality traits in mammals
paves the way for personality researchers to incorporate animal
studies into their research programs, and for animal researchers to
include personality constructs in their studies. Thus, the present
approach should help enrich both personality and animal research,
and will lay the groundwork for fruitful collaborations between the
two disciplines. Indeed, as our opening quote suggests, even i
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The background and/or significance are missing. No search history information is provided.
Review of relevant theoretical literature is evident, but there is no integration of studies into concepts related to problem. Review is partially focused and organized. Supporting and opposing research are not included in the summary of information presented. Conclusion does not contain a biblical integration.
There is no clear or logical organizational structure. No logical sequence is apparent. The use of font, color, graphics, effects etc. is often detracting to the presentation content. Length requirements may not be met
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animals, personality goes a long way.